Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let Your Freak Flag Fly - Be Yourself

Many people might give you unsolicited "advice" as to how to approach your work. Maybe your paintings are too dark and morbid, or that abstract painting looks like a bunch of paint splatters, or that you should take photos that are more commercial.

Getting criticism isn't a bad thing - it's getting unhelpful criticism (especially unsolicited criticism) that's a bad thing. Having someone help critique your work is awesome - we constantly critique each other's work probably daily, but we always ask for it, and we always ask what the other person is trying to achieve.

Asking what the other person is trying to achieve is always important before giving feedback. This allows you to tailor your feedback to the specific problem the other person is trying to achieve. If you are trying to paint a stylized character with goofy proportions, it doesn't help if the feedback is "Your proportions are off." Duh, that's what you were trying to do in the first place, right? However, if you're working on a photo-realistic painting of a friend and someone suggests that perhaps the left eye is a bit higher than where it should be, then you're getting helpful feedback.

But let's get back to bad feedback. Hopefully you don't have to deal with this, but if someone (especially someone whose opinion really matters to you, ie. mom, dad, partner, etc.) gives you feedback completely unsolicited and completely opposite of what you want to do and who you are, DO NOT LISTEN.

While they might mean well, do not listen to them. If you paint bears, and you love to paint bears, and bears are your favorite thing to paint, don't paint landscapes, even if you think you'll have a better chance to sell the painting. Even if you think you have a better chance at getting into a gallery. Especially if that someone told you not to paint bears, you had better frickin' keep painting bears.

If you don't enjoy what you paint, even if you're good at it, even if you become successful, you won't be happy. Monkey and Seal fought their Academy of Art classical realism training for years, and only just now are we really embracing what we love to do. Seal was told that her paintings are too saturated and look too much like animation background illustrations to be fine art. Bah! Monkey was told to paint more realistic, and to leave out the text or incorporate it more into the painting. Bah!

You have to love what you do, and to do that you have to do what you love. Whether you like painting demons or angels, landscapes or portraits, animal sex scenes or intricate church interiors, you have to paint what you like. If you're a dance who loves modern dancer, don't do ballet (unless you love ballet as well). If you're a MC, rap about what you want to rap about, not what you think will get you street cred. If you're a weirdo, be a weirdo. Everyone is weird to someone else. Just as you might be branded a weirdo for making your own paintbrushes out of your own hair, for you, that's normal and most importantly that's who YOU are. If you collect Coach bags, while you might think that everyone thinks you're normal, I bet you there are a good billion people or so who think you're nuts for spending so much on a single bag.

There is always going to be someone who thinks you're doing it wrong, but in reality, if you're happy, you're probably doing it right. So do what you love to do, and do it proudly, and everything else you want will fall in place after that.